January 03, 2023

Why Sustainability Is Important in Health Care

Making the Commitment to Environmental Sustainability in Health Care Organizations

Preserving the environment is something most health care organizations acknowledge as important, however, many do not have formal programs in place to do so. Viewing sustainability as a “nice-to-have” rather than a top priority can be detrimental not only to a health care organization’s surrounding community, but also to its bottom line. There are several reasons why it’s essential for health care organizations to shift their thinking to put sustainability front and center in organizational priorities.

1. Sustainability Strategies Keep Harmful Items Out of the Environment

Hospitals, health systems, physician practices, and other health care organizations contribute to the millions of tons of medical and other hazardous waste each year, much of which can be harmful to the environment if not disposed of properly. If these substances leach into the surrounding landfills and waterways, they can potentially damage ecosystems and cause negative health issues for the community. By developing a sustainability program that ensures waste is correctly collected, segregated, treated and disposed of each and every time, health care organizations can be confident harmful materials will not make their way into the environment.

2. Proper Medical Waste Disposal Prevents Fines and Other Financial Repercussions

Medical waste requires careful containment before collection for treatment. There are Canada-wide guidelines for the management of specific waste types, such as the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) Guidelines for the Management of Biomedical Waste in Canada. However, these must be adopted by provincial legislation or municipal by-laws to be enforceable. Local by-laws may be more stringent than the guidelines recommended by the CCME. These guidelines are designed to help protect the workers who generate medical waste and who manage the waste from generation to disposal.

If health care organizations don’t closely follow these guidelines and laws, they can derail their community’s recycling and waste disposal efforts, potentially pollute the environment and incur costly fines. As such, it is critical to instill a comprehensive medical waste disposal program that ensures your staff consistently and correctly segregate all medical, hazardous, sharps, and drug waste. The program should include clear processes for addressing different waste streams to make sure they are rendered harmless. Not only is this good for the environment, it can help your organization avoid costly ramifications to its reputation and balance sheet.

3. Health Care Organizations Are Part of a Community

Due to their underlying missions, health care organizations have a duty and responsibility to safeguard patients, staff and the community—and a strong sustainability program is a key part of that. Such a program entails reducing the organization’s carbon footprint, making sure harmful substances don’t get into landfills and water systems and managing internal operations to conserve resources, such as by employing reusable containers where possible, engaging in robust recycling, developing programs that mitigate the risk of environmental contamination and so on.

Our Dedication Can Amplify Yours

At Stericycle, we have a strong commitment to preserving the environment and engaging in sustainable practices. Our company has safely treated more than 1.5 billion pounds in medical waste and managed more than 1 billion pounds of hazardous waste. We’ve diverted 104 million pounds of plastics from landfills with reusable sharps and safely disposed of 40 million pounds of pharmaceutical waste, ensuring they do not end up in waterways. Let our passion power your organization’s environmental preservation efforts.

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